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Keeping Campground Septic Systems Working

Camper on Campground

Over the past few years, the RV lifestyle has continued to gain popularity, and not just for vacationers. Rather than taking week-long trips to state parks, many are now embarking on full-time life on the road. With so many new campers pulling up to your dump stations, it’s important to make sure they are functioning properly. Otherwise, you won’t just have a big mess on your hands, but some unhappy campers, too! Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to keep your septic system functioning properly, as long as you institute some safe septic habits.

Things that may Harm Campground Septic Tanks

Your dump station and septic system are designed to effectively break down solids in wastewater, but some things cannot be so easily broken down. While it’s likely that things like baby wipes, paper towels, and food scraps will make their way down the tanks of campground visitors, there’s a chance that doing so could cause damage to your septic system as a whole.

Unlike wastewater and some types of food scraps, these things cannot be broken down in the tank. Instead, they float in the wastewater and could easily find their way into the leach pipes that remove the water from the tank and disperse it in the drain field. Fortunately, many experienced RVers know that flushing things down the toilet or pouring grease down the drain isn’t good for their tank or your dump station. However, it’s wise to make sure that all campers have easy access to trash cans or dumpsters, especially at the dump site, to discourage flushing anything away.

Your septic system relies on bacteria within the tank to break down the wastewater inside. Harsh chemicals in RV toilets, showers, and sinks, as well as products used to clean and sanitize the dump station itself, have the potential to kill off the good bacteria in the tank. This leads to more frequent tank pumpings and potential clogs in the leach field.

Bacteria-based cleaners have the opposite effect on the tank. Rather than killing off the bacteria inside, they add bacteria into the tank. As soon as the new bacteria is introduced, it goes right to work fully digesting wastewater—including fats, oils, or greases (FOG)—inside the tank. With the frequent use of bacteria-based products, you can actually reduce the frequency of pumpings your dump station will need over time and decrease the likelihood of clogging the system. Unfortunately, you can’t control the cleaning products your visitors use inside their campers, but you can add bacteria-based products directly into your dump station to promote healthy bacteria growth inside your septic tank.

How to Properly Maintain Campground Septic Systems

Even with the best septic habits, increased use of the dump station will require frequent cleaning of the septic tank. This is especially true during your busy season, when the tank may become overloaded with continued use. If this happens, you may notice backups in the system or a strain on the drain field. Check sludge levels often, and be sure to have the tank pumped when the levels rise to capacity or dip lower toward the drain outlet pipe.

The dump station and septic system rely on an effective leach field to function properly. So, when the leach field and drain pipes are damaged, it could result in major issues and costly repairs. You may even need to shut down your dump station for a time, which could directly impact your visitor experience.

To prevent issues in your leach field, protecting the area should be a top priority. While walking over the leach field won’t cause any damage to the system, driving or parking vehicles, especially RVs and travel trailers, could result in broken drain pipes. Be sure to close the area off to vehicles and heavy machinery.

Planting trees or bushes around the septic system can also lead to damage. Even if something isn’t planted directly over the leach field, roots of nearby trees and bushes could grow into the system over time. Consider removing existing vegetation around the tank, as well, to reduce the risk of breakage in the future.

Maintaining your Campground Septic System

It’s probably not the most exciting feature of your campground, but the dump station plays an important role in the camp experience. Be sure it’s functioning properly by following a few simple tips. Flushing anything but wastewater and septic-safe toilet paper can lead to clogs in the septic system, so encourage campers to throw away trash, rather than flush it. Add good bacteria to the tank often to aid in the breakdown of waste and FOG, and pump the tank when sludge levels rise. Protect the area around the septic system and leach field, as well, to keep everything functioning properly. These tips will keep your campers happy for years to come!

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